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Battles are same Narmada, Nandigram, Lalgarh: Medha
NEW DELHI, JUL 17 (IANS):
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Published on 17 Jul. 2009 11:25 PM IST
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There is no end to the struggle to save pieces of “our land and the people who live on them, own them and till them”, says social activist and the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) pioneer Medha Patkar. “It is all the same...Narmada, Singur, Nandigram and Lalgarh. The police come in khaki uniform, commit excesses and people suffer. But when it happened in Bengal, I found it difficult to believe. This cannot be possible in a state ruled by the Left Front government, I thought,” Patkar, 54, who has helped set up the National Alliance of People’s Movement, told IANS. “There is no progress in India, only loot being perpetuated in the name of progress. There is still so much happening in the Narmada Valley now,” said Patkar, who became a known face in the late 1980s while spearheading the NBA’s movement against big dams along the Narmada river. Based in Indore, Patkar was in the Lalgarh area of West Bengal recently to take stock of the situation. A tribal body supported by Maoists had made the area out of bounds for the state administration to protest police excesses, but the government’s presence has been re-established there with the help of security forces. “They call it a Naxal problem, but actually it’s the people who are struggling for survival,” said Patkar, an award-winning activist, clad in a green cotton sari. The social activist was in the capital for a day to launch a book titled, “Nandigram Diaries”, which chronicles the people’s movement in Nandigram through the eyes of journalist Pushpraj, associated with the NBA. Nandigram, again in West Bengal, was in the eye of a storm in the last two years after people protested the acquisition of farmland for industry and faced the might of the state. Patkar said, “For me the people of Nandigram who suffered - the women who were raped, the men who either fell to police bullets or were arrested or disappeared and the children who were rendered homeless - are more important. They are the ones I remember. “I played a very small part in their struggle. The badges that the women wore were badges of blood. Had one fact-finding team reached there the moment when the struggle was on, things would have been different,” Patkar said. For Patkar, the enduring symbols of Nandigram where the activist was held by police and went on a hunger strike for two days in November 2007 in protest, “will always be the raped housewife and crusader Radharani, a missing young activist Aditya Bera and some women from a village called Sonachura who have been abused for daring to protest”. Radharani Ari, a housewife from Gokulnagar village in Nandigram, who was at the forefront of the struggle at Nandigram, was allegedly gangraped twice by goons backed by the Left Front in her own house. She was last attacked in April 2008. Aditya Bera, a young activist who was beaten up and shot in Nandigram, is still missing. The women in Sonachura were allegedly raped and hospitalised. “The battle for the Left Front started at Nandigram long before the elections. The recent Lok Sabha verdict shows just how it alienated itself from the people over Nandigram. I remember going to Bengal Minister Nirupam Sen with a report by Mahasweta Devi and Justice Moloy Sengupta, and he had retorted,’Do you think without the neo-liberal paradigm, development is possible in West Bengal?’ “Even now, more than 50 homes are still ravaged in the battle ground of Nandigram,” she said. The human tragedy, however, can never be gauged in terms of numbers, she said. “The cases in the Supreme Court have not progressed. The rape victims have yet to be compensated. The psychological scars of women who have been raped can never heal. Their relationships with their husbands have been strained forever,” she said.

 
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